THE Children’s Authority is on a nationwide search for foster carers.
Authority chairman Hanif Benjamin made the announcement at the opening of the authority’s assessment centre in Sangre Grande, its second centre in Trinidad.
He explained, “The first priority of the authority is to keep children with their families, once possible, appropriate and in the best interest of the child.”
Benjamin said if there is a family breakdown, despite the authority’s best efforts, “alternative placement options must be found for the child.”
This is where foster carers come in, and Benjamin said, “I wish to recognise those committed women, men and families who have opened their hearts and home to a child in need of love.” He added this list is growing slowly. He was optimistic that the authority’s foster care register will increase as the authority engages more people, “especially those interested in dealing with teenagers, and children with disabilities, mental health, medical and developmental special needs.”
Benjamin said a major challenge for the authority and the police had been lengthy delays in obtaining assessment appointments. The main centre at Mt Hope has a backlog of appointments, with schedules booked until next year, but he said the new centre in Sangre Grande “will take some of the burden off the Mt Hope facility.”
He was confident that agreement will soon be reached to establish other assessment centres in Tobago, Manahambre and Chaguanas. On the proposed centre in Tobago, Benjamin said a location has been identified.
Reiterating that reports of abuse are an indication, “that our children are not safe,” he urged all citizens to do their part,”to protect children from all forms of abuse and maltreatment.”
He also said the authority is expanding its community outreach, “and you can expect to see and hear more about how you can protect children from harm.”
Authority director Safiya Noel said approximately six per cent of reports of abuse received on the authority’s hotlines are from the Sangre Grande district. Based on information from the 2011 national census, Noel said there are just over 330,000 children (0-17 years old) in TT, 21,000 of them in Sangre Grande.
“Every one in four persons you meet in this district will be a child,” Noel said